Night Demon by Stephen Wolberius — SPFBO 9 REVIEW

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All right, folks. As the title and cover art suggests, this is a comedy.

No, wait.


This starts off with child murder — a little kid is brutally murdered by a demon. Let me just take a moment to say if child harm is not your bag, this is not your book. Not to say you folks out there are like “YAY, child murder!” but some people are more sensitive than others.

The whole story (or nearly) is told from the perspective from a 13 year old girl. Her name is Lilian and she’s a “dust hunter” aka factory worker. Almost every night when she ends her shift there’s a horrible sound that’s the precursor to these murders. It’s an inhuman howl that echoes through most nights. When attacked, kids are left sucked dry of all their blood and mummified.

The world here felt like a “gas lamp fantasy” as there were literal gas lamps on the streets. I am incredibly terrible with differentiating time periods from 1750-1900. It’s maybe turn of century-ish? Factory working is a norm and technology is present but not super advanced. I Googled “when did factories become common” and it told me 18th century, lol.

So, Lilian is immediately caught off guard when she’s told a good friend of hers has died. His body was found in the same manner that the rest of the bodies the demon attacked and she’s just left in disbelief. She goes to the spot where he’s killed to see if there’s any personal affects left behind, or perhaps a clue. That’s when she finds her friend… but now he’s not Simon, he’s this unholy demon that tries to kill her and the friend group that returns with her to the spot of Simon’s death.

I’m going to keep going with the plot because the synopsis on Goodreads covers this, so I don’t consider it a spoiler if the author doesn’t. Lilian is saved by another demon named Lucian. Lilian is able to commune with demons and see The Affliction when others can’t. It leads to a very strange relationship between this 13 year old girl and her demon. Now, Lucian isn’t necessarily a good guy. She even asks why demons eat people, and demands they stop killing her friends. Lucian is like, okay, are you going to stop eating cows then? People are tasty, apparently. There are demon hunters out there looking for Lucian because they think he’s responsible for all these deaths — and they’ve named Lilian a counterpart.

After finding out one of her friends has already died, one of her other friends, Elizabeth, goes missing. This is just unacceptable. She’s tired of losing friends and she goes to Lucian to see if he can help. He tells her it’s a straight suicide mission to try to get her back from the demons. If they took her, she’s either dead or one of them now. Undeterred, she tries to get her back anyway.

So, as far as the world building it’s pretty Christian-based as far as I can tell. There’s talk of heaven, hell, demons, wooden crosses, Fathers who take confession — the works. I am not a biblical scholar so I’m not sure if certain world building aspects were added from the author’s own mind, or how much was drawn off actual biblical cannon. I tried to google a few words to see if they would come back as actual devil/demon names from the bible, but came up blank the couple times I tried. It’s probably a mix of both as far as I can tell. Demons can be broken down into different classifications or groups from Incubi to Fate-demons, and some are worse than others.

So, the writing was fast paced and the prose got out of the way of the story. Sometimes I’m heavily focused on the word choice, turn of phrase, simile/metaphor in either a good or bad way regarding the author’s style. Sometimes, though, I forget I’m reading as the prose just drop away. For me, this style is the latter. Everything felt smooth and natural from dialogue to scene change. There weren’t any awkward info dumping paragraphs or moments where my suspension of disbelief was challenged. It’d clearly be spoilery to talk about the ending, but I was surprised not once but twice in the last ten percent or so. All in all I felt this was a solid entry for those who enjoy horror-fantasy and it’s been marked safe at the time of this review!